My son asked me yesterday, “Mom, do you like being a girl?”
I like being me. I have journeyed to this point, having endured the insecurities of being an adolescent girl, the compromising, quietness of being a young grown up girl and the feisty assertiveness of being a newly married girl. I have felt a losing of myself in becoming a mother. Then a gaining.
As a girl, there is an inner-voice with which I navigate my journey. She is tough but so vulnerable. There are untruths that are fashioned to derail a girl, to make her feel less, and they are everywhere – in glossy magazines, on social media, in the words intended or not. My grandmother said to me, “A girl doesn’t get anywhere in life unless she is attractive.” My grandmother was a medical specialist, pioneering in her field in an era not yet ready to embrace a girl pursuing success outside of the home. She was gifted, brave, but vulnerable. I believed her for a while, repeating her words in my head.
In a business meeting recently, I was the only girl in the room. Opposite the table from me, a man countered my request to have a voice with, “Anna, sometimes my wife gives me advice about business, sometimes I listen and sometimes I don’t, but on a strategic level, I would never take my wife’s input.” Perhaps his wife is not a strategic thinker, but why did he assume I was not? I felt a fight stirring in my gut, but in a room full of men who are commandeering a one-sided dialogue a girl is stripped of her right to be heard. It seemed inappropriate for me to speak up. I had been cautioned before even opening my mouth at that meeting, ‘Don’t be a girl and get emotional, this is a business meeting’. (Side note: apparently when a man becomes emotional in a business meeting you refer to it as ‘passionate’).
I was shocked to have been assumed less. My value at that meeting had been overlooked just because I had arrived as a wife, as a girl. This brief encounter, this sense of powerlessness – what about other girls who arrive with something to say and are made to feel that their contribution is inappropriate?
What options exist for the girl who is made to feel that nobody needs what she has to offer?
A girl can bury her desires deep inside
She can choose to say yes more, relent more, be what they ask her to be. She gives away, she gains her place. A realm that she can command because she no longer needs to contend with her deepest desires. She is desired.
Or a girl can learn how to fight
She can choose to say no. She will not be what they ask her to be. Her feeling of powerlessness coupled with a life of untruths whispered in the darkness, shouted from the billboards forces her to find her voice. She gave too much away and now she wants something back. She fights to be equal. She want so desperately to be heard, to be seen and noticed for what makes her special.
But what makes her special is that she is a girl.
A girl can learn how to fight to be a girl.
She can choose to say everything without expecting anything in return. She can say no and forgo the temporal reward of feeling desired. She can say yes, speaking truth without the burden of having to change minds. She can believe that she is enough regardless of what she sees in the magazines and hears in the business meetings. She can speak up but she can also walk away. She can teach her daughter to do the same.
I endured two meetings with men who regarded me as less. There are many things that they said to me that were crafted to incite reaction and devalue my right to contribute. I did speak up, but ultimately all that I could do was walk away and choose to discard the lies spoken to me and over me. This was incredibly hard. I had to let go and realise that my fight was wasted with them. My fight is diminished when I waste my time. My time is precious and I have big dreams, great value and a little girl to lead by example.
When I happened to bump into one of these men at the traffic department soon after, though my heart raced, I was able to smile and great him. He on the other hand retreated from my presence. He left, got back in his car to come back and pay his traffic fine another day.
There have been times in my journey as a girl that I have said yes when I should have said no, and times that I have stayed to fight when I should have walked away. I would like to believe that there have been times that I spoken up for who I am as a girl. Even more, I would like to believe that my speaking up changed something.
I can’t be sure that I have changed what they think about me, but I am sure that finding my voice as a girl has changed me.
This is what I want for my daughter. I can’t prepare a world for her that will embrace her beauty, but I can prepare her to understand what makes her beautiful. I can partner with her father in this, I can tell him what it is like to be a little girl and what she needs from him. Together we can make our years of influence over her life count. We will teach her to know that she is valuable. She will teach us to trust that this is enough.
For me, finding my identity as a daughter of God has been crucial in my journey as a girl and I believe that God has given girls the authority to speak up and do do great things in his Kingdom. His purposes transcend gender, and he will give great jobs to those who are willing. When He calls a girl, He knows exactly what she has to offer because he created her to reflect an aspect of His image that has value and is deeply needed to heal a broken world.
Girl’s are beautiful. I answered my son, “I love being a girl. ”